Review: The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (Game Boy Advance)

In this review, things get tiny in the Game Boy Advance game The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. We find out how well this action adventure game plays.

This game was released in 2005.

We have a fair bit of knowledge with this franchise. We previously played the original The Legend of Zelda. That game wound up being a very solid game for us. Next up, we played Zelda II – The Adventure of Link. That game got a great score. After that, we played The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. That game also got a great score. From there, we played The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time. That game managed to earn a near perfect score. Finally, we played The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. That game also got a great score. So, we thought we’d try this game to see if it continues being a great franchise.

You play as the hero (technically, Link). The Master Swordsmith is just finishing the prize sword for the festivals sword fighting competition. You are tasked with delivering the sword to Hyrule castle. Joining you on your trip is Zelda. When you arrive, the competition ends and the winner is asked to take on the tradition of touching the mighty Picori Blade. The winner is Vaati who decides to destroy the blade and attempt to retrieve whatever it is that’s inside the chest. He turns the guards into stone, but is disappointed that the Triforce isn’t within the chest. Undeterred, he transforms Zelda into stone before leaving on his quest to take the TriForce. You are then tasked with seeking the help of the Picori to reforge the Picori Blade and revive the princess.

A lot of what is familiar to fans of the franchise is present here. There are four empty bottles you can collect in the game. You have a sword and shield, however, you actually have to use the shield as an item instead of it being automatically equipped. If you need to use a different item, but still have access to the sword, you need to remove your shield for it.

With “R”, you can execute a roll to make travel a bit more quick.

Your main objective in the game is to collect the four elements scattered throughout Hyrule. Much like the other games, you need to collect these elements in order. These elements are then placed in the elemental sanctuary as part of an effort to reforge your main sword.

One effect of upgrading your sword is the ability to duplicate yourself. This is a new concept for single player use in that you can have copies of yourself performing tasks like attacking or pushing objects around. The only thing to keep in mind is that the configuration is fixed once you’ve built it. You also have a limited amount of time to execute the move. If a copy gets hit or runs into a wall, this breaks your spell and forces you to start over.

Another novel concept is the ability to shrink yourself. This plays out throughout the entire game. With this ability, you can visit small cities and make your way through small holes otherwise completely inaccessible while normal size.

Additionally, you can collect what are known as kinstones. These are more like medallions than stones. Still, you can find them throughout Hyrule. The more common kinstones are green. It’s possible to find them hidden in grass, shrubs, and they can even be dropped by some enemies. Red and blue are a bit more difficult to find. These are generally found in treasure chests, though it is possible to find the odd blue one here and there at random. Finally, there is a gold kinstone. These act more like keys to access certain areas more than anything else.

To use kinstones, you need to “fuse” them together with someone else. Look for thought bubbles. In these thought bubbles, you can see rupees, question marks, or even hearts. This generally gives you a clue as to what to expect when you fuse them. Given how common kinstones are, having a good supply isn’t generally a problem after a while. If you find someone ready to fuse their kinstone, you have to keep in mind that not only do the colours have to match, but also the shard type. Among the non-gold kinstones, there are generally three different configurations each. If the edge matches the other characters kinstone edge, then they can fuse.

Once fused, you’ll be able to unlock something in the world. This includes golden enemies that drop huge rupees when defeated, chests that contain more rare kinstones, heart pieces, growing bean stalks, and other unlockable elements. The thing is, once you unlocked something, an icon is created on the map until you collect that reward. So, you don’t necessarily have to worry about remembering every location you’ve unlocked for later on in the game. The reason this is a worry is that, sometimes, you can unlock something in an area you don’t actually have access to yet. The primary focus is just unlocking as many things as possible with these.

Another feature is the mysterious shells. Late in the game, this is used as currency to purchase figurines. This figurine system is more like a simple mini-game of chance. If you buy a figurine, your first one will have a 100% chance to be unique. The second one will have a 99% chance of being unique. As you buy figurines, the odds go down gradually. If you duplicate a figurine, the shop owner will buy it for 5 rupees. The thing is, however, that you can invest more shells per figurine. If you have an 80% chance of getting a unique figurine with one shell, you can give the shop owner 10 shells instead. This will bump up your chances of getting a unique figurine to 90%. Each shell buys an additional percentage chance of getting something unique.

By the time you unlock this, you might think this is trivial given that you’ll have hundreds of shells. The thing is, when you find yourself starting out with a 25% probability, it gets really expensive to try and give yourself a very good shot at getting a figurine you don’t already own. Prior to beating the game, you don’t actually get anything for your effort, but there are 130 figurines in total. As you get further into the game, the shop salesman will say that he made some new figurines. This will bump up the probabilities by a few points. Still, as you get to the end, you’ll eventually go all the way down to a 1% chance at getting something new. So, in the end, there’s really no such thing as over-collecting on shells. Even if you grind, you’ll probably eventually run out playing this game.

On a final note, you’ll also be given the chance to upgrade your sword techniques. The first one can be easily obtained in the village. Note, however, that there are many Dojo’s throughout Hyrule. Many won’t train you if you don’t have the right number of Tiger Scrolls, items, or proper forging of your sword, so do keep notes on where they all are. You’ll get some good abilities after a while with your sword, but this requires effort and a good memory.

One thing I do like about this game is the huge number of optional content in this game. For example, there are a lot of kinstone fusions to be had in this game. I thought I was unlocking a lot of them left and right. I found myself hoarding as many kinstones as possible, then running to every villager I happen to be coming through and dumping as many as possible before moving on. At one point, I then found out it is possible to track how many fusions are left. I was quite surprised when I found out I had 77 left. I eventually got the number down to around 22, but the whole map is completely filled with unlockable kinstone bonuses. That alone is impressive.

There are also a lot of mole mitt doors you can explore. While a number of them feature mystery walls required if you want to get all four bottles, there are others that have a lot of different things you can collect along the way.

Additionally, like other games, you can go around and collect the odd heart piece here and there. You might be required to have a specific item to get there, but that aspect of exploration is still carried through into this game.

Another thing that is a positive is the fact that there is a lot to do in this game. You might not see that at first when you find out that you’re just collecting four elements. After all, there are a number of games where that would count as simply the beginning part of your quest. However, there is a lot you need to go through just to complete the main objectives. One quest late in the game requires you to explore within the main village which is surprising in a way. Just because there are four main dungeons doesn’t mean that that is all this game offers. It’s a bit like Majora’s Mask where you actually have dungeons to get to dungeons. So, there is a lot to get through.

A problem I have with this game is that it is easy to get entirely lost while you try and feel your way through the game. Part way through, I did find myself consulting a guide for a few hints as to what I need to do to get through a certain area. One particularly painful dungeon was the second elemental dungeon. Some key area’s require blasting walls to get to a “secret” area that is needed to obtain a crucial element in the dungeon. Sometimes, just finding where you need to go to next requires a bit of guesswork. You do have the Minish cap that can offer hints, but sometimes, those hints are vague and doesn’t really tell the player a whole lot. The confusing nature of this game can be a bit offputting to some players.

This leads into another complaint I have about this game. It can be very cryptic at times. While some degree of cryptic details can be expected, sometimes, the cryptic nature can get in the way. An example would be when you first learn the duplication process. All you’re told is to stand on the colourful tiles. It took me a good couple of minutes to figure out what I needed to do. The cap, of course, won’t permit you to leave until you’ve learned the technique. I found this to be a bit annoying, personally.

Meanwhile, I found the puzzle difficulty challenging. I could solve almost all of them, but the game really pushed my problem solving skills at times. If you aren’t a puzzle solving oriented player, this game can be annoying in that regard as well.

Generally speaking, however, this game has a lot going for it. If you are experienced in this franchise, this game will likely be a very satisfactory play. If, however, you are new, then you’ll probably find yourself being less than impressed by some of the difficult elements. This can include a certain degree of cryptic play, harder puzzles, and a confusing layout. So, this is definitely recommended if you already have a good feel for, at least, this type of gameplay. Still, there is a lot of optional stuff and it has all the makings of an impressive game. So, it’s generally a great game to play.

Graphics is always a strong point in this franchise. This game is no exception. The art is generally quite well done. What helps even more is the animation of it all. Link in the minecart, doing general attacks, and even enemy attacks are generally nicely done. The large number of environments you need to explore also enhances the overall graphical appearance. Also, a lot of the effects thrown in like explosions and rain drops are very well done. So, an impressive effort here.

Audio is also something that this franchise is known for having. The music is very nicely varied. There is almost no repeating music throughout. All the main dungeons have their own tracks. The music is also very well done. The main Hyrule field music is nicely done as always. What I like is the mix of old and new. Hyrule castle has a very familiar theme to it. However, the swamp area’s feature a new take on some of the old. Dungeon music also has their own unique take on what a dungeon theme should be. Meanwhile, the voice samples are definitely taken from the N64 games. They generally work quite well. There is, of course, a small set of new voice samples thrown in to give this game a unique sound as well. Sound effects work nicely as well. Overall, the audio is a great effort here.

Overall, this is a great game worth playing. While the difficulty, the cryptic nature of some aspects, and the confusion are certainly present, these are more or less minor issues in this game. It has a great open world feel and a whole bunch of optional side-quests to keep players interested beyond the main quest. While this game features a lot of old elements, there is certainly a large number of new elements to keep this game fresh. Graphics are very nicely done and the audio is great to. So, overall, this is a great game worth playing. A recommended play.

Furthest point in game: Got all four bottles. Got 130 figurines. Had only 22 kinstone fusions left to go. Beat the game.

General gameplay: 20/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 82%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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